So there I was, so fresh of the plane that people could smell us a mile away. We arrived on 18 October 2012 in Ashkelon, and barely a month into our exciting new live, I found myself sitting down on the bed with my3 kids, aged 3 till 6, having to tell them about operation Pillar of Defense
So I sat on the edge of their bed and carefully started to tell them about how there were some bad people being very angry with Israel, keeping my voice calm but serious and tried to explain to them the concept of rockets. ( my older daughter exclaiming: No mamma, no ! ) And trying to soothe them with the Iron Dome witch I explained as a huge invisible umbrella in the sky that would stop the rockets before they would even get to us. But just to be sure, the Israeli government would sound the alarm, so we could run to a shelter, just in case, you know ??
There was absolutely no need to tell them about the 80 something percent success rate of the Iron Dome, so I didn’t. Coming from Holland, the threat of rockets were enough to deal with.
Luckily, my husband’s mother, where we were staying at the time, had an indoor shelter, so we didn’t have to run far. A niece and some young cousins were coming by on a daily basis, sometimes sleeping over. My eldest daughter insisted on sleeping with her elder niece in the living room, close to the shelter. She was always the fastest and the first. Whenever the rest of us came rushing in, me with my often still sleeping son in my arms, and the other daughter next to me, my eldest would be sitting there already, big eyed and all. I took to reading a book to them, just to ease the fear, to keep a sense of normality. To not imprint them with hysteria and fear every time the siren would sound. That siren was a blearing, blood rushing, tearing at the soul, knee crumbling sound on its own. No need to make that worse if that would be even possible. The waiting for the boom… and back to “normal”.
My kids even took to playing outside, in the garden or the street in front of the door, playing football and ignoring the grumpy neighbor going on about balls and cars. Until a siren started screeching and all of them rushing back in, in a straight line, like little ducklings fast forward. The oldest nephew in the back, making sure no one was left behind.
It lasted only 8 days, thank G’D, but WOW !! What a way to start your life in a new country.
The second time, we had moved to a Moshav under the wings of Ashkelon and there we sat through the 50 days conflict Protective Force.This time it was different though. This time I did not have to explain the rockets and alarm: they had been here for a year and half already so…
We had no access to a shelter of any kind, so there really wasn’t a need to run anywhere. I just went ahead with what I was doing at the time and the kids would follow me in this. So they were coloring drawings or watching TV with the awful sound of the siren in the back, rendering us physically rather helpless with the heart pounding and blood rushing, but anyway: keep on coloring, one eye on mammy and the other on the paper . In the beginning I would still go to work and bring the kids to their grandmother, but then I had to stop working because they closed off the road to work, so they stayed with me. The ride to Ashkelon posed a new problem as well: what if we were caught in an attack during the ride ?? So I had to instruct my kids again: not to close the safety belts, and jump out of the car and sit huddled at the side of the car and wait for me to make my way around the car and sit in front of them. Even I had to learn some new tricks: crack open the window and close the radio lest you do not hear the siren and are confronted with a sudden traffic stop. At first I didn’t even link that crazy traffic move to the war: in Israel the traffic is always full of surprises.
But we tackled that one as well thank you !! I was even proud of them how they got out and huddled like a pro.. Just another notch that “back in Holland ” wouldn’t understand. Well this time around I didn’t stay in the house, all nervous like. We went shopping if we had to, went to the beach when there was a cease fire and tried to do fun stuff in and around the house, throughout the war, the noise, the booms of the exploding rockets, the heavy thumbs of the retaliation, the helicopters flying overhead , the rattling windows and the incredible loud explosions from destroying the tunnels. It was mad.
I have felt guilty many times to have brought our kids into such a situation, but on the other hand: I knew Israel is really always under some kind of threat. It is just part of the deal. As long as all the good, and believe you me: more than plenty of that to go around, still outweighs the bad, we are staying.